Warner Bros. and director Clint Eastwood are facing a legal threat over their new film “Richard Jewell”.
The movie, which opens wide on Friday, tells the story of a security guard who was mistakenly suspected of carrying out the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing.
Eastwood’s film has faced serious criticism, though, over its depiction of Atlanta Journal-Constitution journalist Kathy Scruggs, portrayed in the film by Olivia Wilde, suggesting that she had sex with an FBI agent in exchange for information about Jewell.
“It is highly ironic that a film purporting to tell a tragic story of how the reputation of an FBI suspect was grievously tarnished appears bent on a path to severely tarnish the reputation of the AJC, a newspaper with a respected 150-year-old publishing legacy,” an attorney for the AJC wrote in a letter to Eastwood and the studio, according to Deadline.
The letter also warns that the next step would be “defamation lawsuit in various jurisdictions.”
“The Richard Jewell film falsely portrays the AJC and its personnel as extraordinarily reckless, using unprofessional and highly inappropriate reporting methods, and engaging in constitutional malice by recklessly disregarding information inconsistent with its planned reporting,” the letter continues.
“This, too, is the height of irony, since all those involved in the film’s creation and dissemination and its false portrayal of the AJC are the ones who have acted recklessly and are engaging in constitutional malice,” it adds.
The letter goes on to demand, “Accordingly, we hereby demand that you immediately issue a statement publicly acknowledging that some events were imagined for dramatic purposes and artistic license and dramatization were used in the film’s portrayal of events and characters. We further demand that you add a prominent disclaimer to the film to that effect.”
Warner Bros. responded to the threat of a lawsuit on Monday.
“The film is based on a wide range of highly credible source material,” they told Deadline.
“There is no disputing that Richard Jewell was an innocent man whose reputation and life were shredded by a miscarriage of justice,” the statement continued. “It is unfortunate and the ultimate irony that the Atlanta Journal Constitution, having been a part of the rush to judgment of Richard Jewell, is now trying to malign our filmmakers and cast. ‘Richard Jewell’ focuses on the real victim, seeks to tell his story, confirm his innocence and restore his name.”
“The AJC’s claims are baseless and we will vigorously defend against them,” Warner Bros. added.
As for one of the concerns by AJC Editor-in-Chief Kevin Riley, the studio confirmed that there is a disclaimer at the end of the film (that has always been there) which reads: “The film is based on actual historical events. Dialogue and certain events and characters contained in the film were created for the purposes of dramatization.”